A new breed rising in Calistoga – Kelly Fleming Wines

After taking a back seat for decades to the more famous sub-appellations in the Napa Valley, Calistoga is quietly becoming the destination of choice for producers seeking terroir-driven wines in a down-to-earth environment.

Kelly Fleming could have invested anywhere in the Napa Valley for her namesake brand but chose to make Calistoga her home, seeing the potential for high quality winegrowing in Simmons Canyon off Silverado Trail.  The watershed here creates one of the few alluvial fans on the eastern side of the Napa Valley and her location, farther and deeper into Simmons Canyon from Araujo’s famed Eisele Vineyard, is very rocky and well-draining.

Calistoga enjoys relief from the daytime heat from maritime breezes flowing through Chalk Hill Gap in the western Mayacamas mountain range.  But Fleming says the Simmons Canyon microclimate has a more profound effect.   At this part of the Napa Valley, the canyon runs nearly north to south and, being at the narrowest and steepest part of the canyon, the mountains shield the vineyards from the most intense afternoon rays of the sun.  The vines also benefit from cooling breezes that funnel down the canyon, helping to minimize disease.

Twelve of the 300 acres are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, farmed organically under the direction of Amigo Bob Cantisano.  The 100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon wines are made by Celia Welch in a more elegant style.  “I don’t want masculine wines,” says Kelly.

Starting with the first release in 2005, Fleming has been building the brand carefully.  Her husband Paul, who has more than 25 years of experience developing successful restaurant concepts such as P.F. Chang and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, advised Kelly of the importance of establishing the value proposition with the consumer first.  The wines are priced at the lower end of expensively–made Napa Valley wines, currently $90 per bottle for the 800-case 2008 vintage.

The new 5,000 ft.2 winery, opened in 2010, adds elegance and style to tourism in Calistoga.  Designed by Taylor Lombardo Architects of San Francisco, the stone façade, wood beams and open, light-filled spaces are reminiscent of a well-worn Provencal home.  Open by appointment only, the beautifully-decorated tasting room and patio have beautiful views.

With Solage and Calistoga Ranch resorts just minutes away and Araujo down the road, guests have called the area the “90210 of Calistoga.”  Kelly laughs it off but will be one of the producers to proudly use the Calistoga appellation label beginning with the 2010 vintage.  With the investments she and other producers have been making in the Calistoga vineyards and infrastructure, the future looks bright indeed.

Kelly Fleming Winery is located at 2339 Pickett Road, Calistoga CA 94515.  Phone:  707-942-6849.